Authors Posts by Victoria Espinoza

Victoria Espinoza

Victoria Espinoza
456 POSTS 1 COMMENTS
Victoria Espinoza is the editor of the Times of Huntington & Northport. She once broke her elbow trying to eat a cookie.

Community members stand with the baskets of food donations raised for Tri CYA. Photo from A.J Carter

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D), a Huntington grocery store and many other local groups recently made it their mission to help stock the kitchen at a local children’s organization.

Tri Community and Youth Agency, a not-for-profit organization that offers educational, recreational, social, cultural, athletic, counseling and advocacy programs for the town’s youth spanning from South Huntington to Cold Spring Harbor, noticed an issue with food shortage among its young attendees.

Edwards said she was told that  80 children were receiving meals while attending Tri CYA programs during the week, but were pressed for food during the weekends when they were home. Edwards reached out to a network of organizations that responded quickly and were eager to help.

“This is an example of what we can do when we all work together on a common goal,” Edwards said in an event announcing the donations at the Stop & Shop on Jericho Turnpike in Huntington. “Thank you to Stop & Shop and all the service organizations in our community.”

Responding to a call to action from Edwards, a large roster of community-based organizations and the Huntington Stop & Shop store mobilized to gather food and donate it to help the 80 kids enrolled in the Tri CYA program.

“Our children and their families are most appreciative of Stop & Shop’s assistance,” said Debbie Rimler, (regional director) executive director of Tri CYA.  “I am very grateful that all these groups have banded together to address food insecurity over the weekends. This donation will make a huge difference in many households and for many youths. Thank you so much.”

The participating organizations said it was their pleasure to get involved.

“It is our privilege to lend assistance to those in the Huntington community who make sure that children are cared for,” said Cindy Carrasquilla, manager of public relations and community relations for Stop & Shop said in a statement. “Stop & Shop is pleased that our efforts can provide food and nourishment to youngsters in need.“

The grocery chain donated milk, cream cheese, butter, vegetables, fresh fruit and kid favorites such as hot dogs, soup, macaroni, ravioli, Lunchables, Pop-Tarts and juice.

Huntington is not alone in a need for more food to feed our residents.

According to Feeding America’s most recent hunger study, 39 percent of Long Islanders who receive emergency food are children under 18 years old. Feeding America is a nonprofit organization that works as a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks feeding more than 40 million people.

“Summer hunger is a serious issue here on Long Island,” said Robin Amato, chief development officer of Long Island Cares, Inc. “Moving forward we will be talking to the Tri CYA about utilizing our children’s breakfast food trucks to ensure that these children have nutritious weekend meals all year round.”

Other organizations and companies that donated food include American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244; the Boy Scouts of America, Suffolk County Girl Scouts, Huntington Community First Aid Squad, Huntington Public Library, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, YMCA of Huntington, NAACP, Huntington Station Business Improvement District, and more.

Councilman Tom McCarthy hopes to win another term on the board. File photo

One lifelong Smithtown resident, business owner and longtime public servant is looking to continue to serve the community he loves.

Town Councilman and Deputy Supervisor Tom McCarthy (R) who first ran in 1997, is looking to win yet another term this November to serve on the town board.

“I felt like people in the town needed a local business person to listen to their problems and to treat them like customers,” McCarthy said in a phone interview of why he first ran for a seat on the board two decades ago. Although he retired in 2007, McCarthy at one point owned seven car rental dealerships throughout Smithtown and Huntington.

McCarthy was raised by his parents in Nesconset, who moved to the area in 1938.

“I loved growing up there,” he said. “It was fabulous. It’s a wonderful life. People always envy you when you say you live in the Smithtown area.”

Throughout his tenure on the board McCarthy has worked to develop and progress revitalization efforts in downtown Smithtown and the surrounding hamlets, expand commercial properties and conserve and improve green spaces and local parks.

Currently McCarthy has his hands in multiple projects, including planting more than 100 trees in areas throughout Smithtown, rebuilding the business district in St. James with infrastructure upgrades, working to purchase the administrative building from the Smithtown school district and more.

Many residents of Smithtown were upset when they heard the school district intended to sell the New York Avenue building to a development company that would establish an apartment complex there. When that plan fell through, McCarthy presented an alternative.

“You have 13 acres of playing fields there,” he said. “You can’t afford to lose that. I want to preserve those fields and come up with a downtown green and park, to give downtown Smithtown an identity.”

The councilman is also working to develop sewers with money from New York State, which the town was able to acquire this past year.

“All of these projects would not be possible without the financial stability the supervisor has given us,” McCarthy said of Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R). “He has given me the ability to run with the ball.”

Vecchio had nothing but praise for the work McCarthy has done.

“Tom is a solid, hard working member of the town council,” Vecchio said in an email. “It is for that very reason that I have appointed him deputy supervisor over these many years.”

As for why the residents of Smithtown should continue to put their trust in him, McCarthy said his background is exactly why.

“I’m the only business man on the town board, and running for the town board,” he said. “The people of this town have given me a wonderful life, and I have more to give back to them.”

File photo

By Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police arrested a man for allegedly driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a child after he stole a vehicle. He also fled police and was involved in a motor vehicle crash in Melville early morning Aug. 5

A 2nd Precinct officer observed a man in a 2001 Ford driving recklessly south on New York Avenue at East 15th Street in Huntington Station at 3:12 a.m. The vehicle had been reported stolen from Bay Shore at about 2:30 a.m. An officer attempted to pull over the vehicle and the driver, Justice Bennett, fled. Bennett lost control and the vehicle overturned and crashed at Old Country Road, west of Ponderosa Drive, at 3:16 a.m., police said.

Bennett, 19, of Bay Shore, was transported by the Melville Fire Department to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow for treatment of serious injuries. A 13-year-old passenger and two 14-year-old passengers in the vehicle were all transported by the Melville Fire Department to Nassau University Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Second Squad detectives charged Bennett with criminal possession of stolen property, three counts of aggravated driving while intoxicated (Leandra’s Law), three counts of endangering the welfare of a child and unlawful fleeing of police. He is scheduled for arraignment at a later date.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is continuing. No attorney information for Bennett was immediately available.

Former Suffolk police chief James Burke was arrested for using violent force with a suspect two years ago. File photo

A presidential visit to Suffolk County ended with the Suffolk County Police Department distancing itself from President Donald Trump’s (R) comments encouraging police officers to use more force with suspects at an event in Brentwood Friday, July 28.

“Please don’t be too nice,” Trump said to an audience of Suffolk County Police officers. “When you guys put somebody in their [police] car and you’re protecting their head, you know the way you put your hand over their head? Like don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. I said you can take the hand away okay?”

Officers broke into laughter and applause after Trump’s remarks, however less than two hours after he spoke police departments and organizations throughout the country came out to condemn Trump’s words.

“As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners,” the Suffolk department said in a statement on Twitter. “The SCPD has strict rules and procedures relating to the handling of prisoners. Violations of those rules are treated extremely seriously.”

For Suffolk County, the subject of police brutality is especially important, as disgraced former police chief James Burke was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for use of violent force with suspect Christopher Loeb, along with attempting to cover up his efforts and more.

During the trial Loeb, who was imprisoned for a parole violation said the incident changed his life, according to a report from The New York Times.

“I will never again feel comfortable in Suffolk County, the place I used to call home,” he said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) vowed to “reform [Suffolk County] governmentally and politically in a way that we can ensure this doesn’t happen again,” as a result of the details of Burke’s crimes becoming public.

Trump traveled to Suffolk to talk about efforts to eradicate gang violence, particularly with MS-13, which has been associated with violent criminal offenses in the past year in the county, especially in Brentwood.

Other police departments also condemned Trump’s rhetoric.

“To suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public,” a statement from the New York City Police Department said.

One  police officer from Gainesville, Florida directly called out both the president and the Suffolk cops who cheered on his remarks.

“I’m a cop,” Ben Tobias said on Twitter. “I do not agree with or condone POTUS remarks today on police brutality. Those that applauded and cheered should be ashamed.”

Despite the reaction from the crowd, the Suffolk County Police Department was quick to distance itself from Trump’s remarks.

U.S. Rep Lee Zeldin (R) traveled with Trump throughout his trip to Long Island and praised the president for his efforts.

“This administration has taken a hard stance against gang activity, and it is imperative that we come together as one community in rejection of this violence which has claimed too many innocent lives,” he said in a statement. “It is our obligation to make eradicating this criminal organization a top priority.”

Zeldin did not respond to requests for comment regarding Trump’s encouragement of police using less restraint with suspects.

Outside the event Trump supporters were grateful to have the president come and focus on their issues.

Smithtown resident Angela Martinez spoke in support for the president.

“This is the best, Trump coming here,” she said in an interview. “This is supposed to be good for the Island, this is supposed to be good for the community. The community really needs to work together.”

Additional reporting contributed by Kyle Barr.

Gene Cook. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Victoria Espinoza

Term limits could be the law of the future, as one Huntington town councilman is looking to the public for encouragement on drafting legislation for term limits for local offices.

Back in late June, Councilman Gene Cook (R) asked Huntington residents and business owners to let him know their thoughts on term limits for all elected officials in the town. The survey asked if people were in favor of term limits, supported them for all elected officials and if they supported two terms of four years each or three terms of four years each for officials.

By mid-July the results were in and Cook feels positive about moving forward to schedule a public hearing to hear more from the residents on the matter.

“For years I have wanted term limits,” Cook said in a phone interview. “So many people have come up to me on the street and said we should have term limits for everyone. I truly believe in it, and I think it makes for a healthier environment.”

According to Cook’s office, 98.07 percent of the people who responded are in favor of term limits, 86.54 percent supported that term limits include all elected officials, 63.46 percent supported two terms of four years compared to 17.31 percent for three terms of four years each.

Cook said he went to Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) after he got the results and said he plans to present a resolution for a public hearing for proposed legislation on term limits scheduled for the September town board meeting.

The proposed legislation would support term limits of two terms of four years each for all elected officials including town supervisor, town council, town clerk, receiver of taxes and superintendent of highways. This legislation also includes if the town board ever wishes to change term limits that it go before a public referendum.   

“I feel very strongly about this, that it’s the right thing to do,” Cook said. “In a business world it’s always good to have competition, it should be the same in politics. We can make government better by doing this.”

Petrone, who has served the town for more than 20 years, said he’s going into these discussions with an open mind.

“I objected in the past because drafts didn’t include all elected officials,” he said in a phone interview. “But I believe this may be different. In the past I’ve said if we had term limits it should be all the way up the line to Congress.”

The supervisor said he’ll see if a public hearing is a better vehicle to get information.

Cook said he hopes he can get bipartisan support for this bill and show that real leadership starts at the town level.

He will be sponsoring a resolution to schedule a public hearing in September on term limits at the Aug. 15 town board meeting.

“It is extremely vital for the future of  Huntington that the residents and business owners take the time out of their busy day to attend either the August … meeting at 2 p.m., the September … meeting at 7 p.m. or email Jo-Ann Raia, Huntington town clerk to ensure their voices are heard on term limits,” Cook said in a statement. “In the six years that I have served Huntington I have had many conversations with Huntington constituents regarding their thoughts on the need for term limits. This is why I have taken a stance to sponsor legislation this important topic.”

Councilwoman Susan Berland stands with the free sunscreen dispenser now at Crab Meadow Beach in Northport. File photo from A.J. Carter

By Victoria Espinoza

One Huntington Town official is determined to have residents covered when it comes to their skin.

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) received support from her Huntington Town Board colleagues to expand her pilot program and provide sunscreen protection for Huntington residents at 14 new locations in addition to Crab Meadow Beach.

Last summer Berland launched a free sunscreen dispenser program at Crab Meadow Beach after working in conjunction with IMPACT Melanoma, formerly known as the Melanoma Foundation of New England, an organization that provides education, prevention and support for the most serious form of skin cancer.

“The [Crab Meadow Beach dispenser] was a success,” Berland said in a phone interview. “It got a lot of use last year and this year. So I wanted to expand it to 14 other locations.”

For about $1,600, the town will purchase from IMPACT Melanoma 14 additional BrightGuard sunscreen dispensers along with a supply of BrightGuard Eco Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 for each designated location.

The new dispensers will be installed at Asharoken Beach, Centerport Beach, Crescent Beach, Fleets Cove Beach, Gold Star Battalion Beach, Hobart Beach, Quentin Sammis/West Neck Beach, Greenlawn Memorial Park, Heckscher Park, Ostego Park, Veterans Park, Crab Meadow Golf Course, Dix Hills Golf Course and Dix Hills Pool. The sunscreen is environmentally safe, made in America and Para-AminoBenzoic Acid (PABA) free, according to Berland’s office. The councilwoman said she chose locations based on need and their supervision.

“For example the town pool is where all town camp programs are held,” she said. “I’m willing to bet there are some kids who are not using sunscreen or will forget it and this can help.”

Berland said the reaction to the first dispenser and a melanoma prevention and awareness event she hosted earlier this summer have indicated both been a success.

“I get swarmed at the dermatologists office about how great the first dispenser is,” she said. “People can forget to pack their sunscreen or some people have never even used sunscreen before. It’s just not on their radar. So people are now trying it, it’s a great preventative for the residents.”

According to the Journal of Clinical Oncology regular sunscreen use can reduce the incidence of melanoma by 50 to 73 percent.

According the 2014 report “Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer,” skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, and most cases are preventable. Melanoma is responsible for the most deaths of all skin cancers, killing almost 9,000 people each year. It is also one of the most common types of cancer among U.S. adolescents and young adults.

Berland is a skin cancer survivor herself and said this issue is very personal to her.

“People need to take care of themselves early in life,” she said. “This has opened up people’s eyes to the entire issue.”

The resolution will be presented to the board at the next town board meeting. Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in a phone interview he believes the program’s relatively low cost is an added benefit to the positives it will do for residents.

“It’s a very minimal price,” he said. “It’s not something to put my thumb down on.”

For more information about this program, call Berland’s office at 631-351-3173.

File photo

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the drowning deaths of twins in Melville Wednesday morning, July 26.

Second Precinct officers responded to 10 Holly Court at approximately 8:40 a.m. after a woman called 911 to report she pulled her 3-year-old son, Nicholas Aurilia, from the home’s in-ground pool and he was not breathing. The mother began to perform CPR on Nicholas and reported his twin brother was missing. When police and rescue personnel arrived, they located the boy’s twin, Anthony, in the pool.

The boys were transported by Melville Volunteer Fire Department to Plainview Hospital where they were pronounced dead. An autopsy will be performed by the Nassau County Medical Examiner.

Personnel from the Town of Huntington were notified to determine compliance with town regulations regarding the pool.

 

Supervisor Frank Petrone. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

For residents of Huntington continuously discouraged with a lack of parking, help appears to be on the way.

At the last town board meeting officials took a step toward construction of a parking structure in the village by approving the second phase of a feasibility study looking into the physical and financial aspects of the project.

Level G Associates of Old Bethpage completed the first phase of the project, and the board voted to extend their contract to continue their work. In a May report, Level G concluded it was both physically and economically feasible to construct a 528-space parking deck above part of the current municipal parking lot between New and Green streets. In the second phase of the study, Level G will finalize the various models, estimates and projections used to draw its preliminary conclusions.

Phase two will include a functional plan for the proposed deck, financing models and revenue projections. The expanded final report is expected to be suitable for submission to financial institutions and other stakeholders involved in funding and financing the project.

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said he’s happy to see a plan residents have requested for years moving forward.

“This is an exciting next step in bringing the town closer to a long-term solution for the parking issues in Huntington village,” he said in a statement. “The question of whether to build a parking structure has been discussed for many years, and the fact that we are moving into a detailed study of how to make it happen represents significant progress.”

Moving forward with the second phase of this project is the latest measure undertaken by the town to address the shortage of parking in Huntington village. The measures have included forming the Huntington Village Parking Consortium, which includes the town, the Economic Development Corporation, the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, the Huntington Village Business Improvement District and the Paramount Theater.

Other measures recommended in a study the consortium commissioned a few years ago have included instituting tiered pricing for metered parking spots, improving signage to direct motorists to municipal parking lots and a pilot valet parking program. The consortium also evaluated requests for proposals that explored possible public partnerships and a mixed-use structure before opting to consider a public project for a parking-only structure.

Asharoken Village beach. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers rescued three people from the Long Island Sound after their sailboat overturned Sunday, July 23.

Marine Bureau Officers Keith Walters and Erik Johnson, aboard Marine Bravo, responded to a VHF call for a capsized sailboat with three people in the water in the Long Island Sound, approximately ¾ of a mile off Asharoken Beach according to police. When officers arrived, they pulled the occupants, William Bradford, 58, his son, Joseph, 24, both of Asharoken, and Brianna Bowlry, 16, aboard their vessel

Officers brought the sailors and their boat to shore. All three sailboat occupants were wearing life jackets and no one was injured.

Legislator William Spencer during the phone bank last weekend. Photo from Eve Meltzer Krief

Several Huntington doctors used an unusual tool this past weekend to abide by their sworn oath to do no harm — their phones — in an effort to deter passage of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the U.S. Senate’s answer to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Physicians working throughout the town gathered to participate in a phone bank, calling residents in other states to try and encourage them to call their senators and protest the bill.

“The most important thing we can do right now is focus on a few key senators who will make or break this bill,” physician Eve Meltzer Krief said in a phone interview. “Senators want to hear from constituents so we’re talking to the constituents themselves. The people we spoke with this past weekend were overwhelmingly against the bill but weren’t calling their senators.”

The doctors called out of a pediatric office in Huntington and focused on West Virginia residents where U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) presides and had not yet declared if she would support the bill.

“When we call as physicians people listen,” Krief said. “We explain that we’re concerned, and we didn’t have one person hang up on us. Everyone listened to what we had to say. Doctors generally don’t get involved politically — I never have in my life — but this [bill] is definitely the wrong direction for American health care.”

For Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), this event hit closer to home, as he was born and raised in West Virginia. His father was a schoolteacher in Welch, West Virginia.

Spencer said for West Virginia citizens, health care coverage is extremely vital, especially for residents who rely on Medicaid. So if the Senate’s bill is passed and Medicaid funding is cut, people there will suffer.

“The life expectancy here in Long Island is 82 years old and in West Virginia it’s 62 years old,” he said in a phone interview. “That’s the life span of a third-world country — for a place about 500 miles away from us.”

Spencer said most people he spoke to said they would call their senator after he spoke with them.

“This was very personal for me,” he said. “Most people there are going about their daily lives trying to make ends meet, and they aren’t thinking about what their officials are voting on.”

The legislator and Huntington-based doctor said he felt inspired after participating in the phone bank.

“I felt that I was making a difference not only for the people in West Virginia but also for my constituents in Suffolk County,” he said.

Although the Senate announced late Monday night they no longer had the votes to bring the health care bill to the floor, as two more Republican senators announced they would not support it, that does not mean the effort to change the current system was defeated.

“I was pleased and relieved to hear that two more senators pulled out of the bill and it was dead,” Dr. Kristin Bruning, a Huntington-based child psychiatrist who also participated in the phone bank said in a phone interview. “But when I woke up the next morning and heard about the repeal … I am very concerned.”

U.S. Sen. and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said he now plans for the Senate to vote for a repeal alone and worry about a replacement later on.

“It feels like it’s just a desperate effort to do anything to annihilate the Affordable Care Act without careful planning,” Bruning said. “I worry that will throw the insurance industry into more disarray.”

Social

4,765FansLike
5Subscribers+1
968FollowersFollow
19SubscribersSubscribe